White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer first announced the firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates in front of two New York Times reporters, according to a report from the paper.
“We just fired the attorney general,” Spicer personally told New York Times reporters Maggie Haberman and Mark Landler Jan. 30. The moments leading up to the dramatic announcement were almost just as intriguing.
The two were invited to the White House on a Monday evening, just nine days into Trump’s presidency. They were told that one of the president’s advisors would meet with them.
Haberman, a veteran political reporter, went to the New York Times from Politico in 2015 to cover the presidential campaign. She developed a close relationship with the Clinton campaign, who described her as a “friendly journalist.”
The leaks of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails revealed that top Clinton officials worked with Haberman to push their narrative. “We have had her tee up stories for us before, and have never been disappointed,” Nick Merrill wrote in a January 2015 memo.
Landler, meanwhile, spent the previous five years covering the Obama White House, and described the Jan. 30 late-night rendezvous as a chance to get to know the new faces in a familiar place.
“Shortly after 9, we walked into Upper Press,” Landler said, referring to a series of press officers from which Spicer conducts his duties on the White House grounds.
“He [Spicer] was standing next to a desk where an assistant had her finger poised over a keyboard,” Landler said, describing the moment where they were informed of the firing. “Scanning the text on his iPhone one last time, he told the aide to hit send.”
Spicer then informed the two of the firing — which Yates received via hand delivered letter, and the public received when Spicer’s aide hit “send” on a statement — and the New York Times published the news online at 9:23 p.m. Trump had fired the acting attorney general for refusing to defend the president’s temporary travel ban. [RELATED: Trump Fires Acting AG Who Refused To Enforce Refugee Order]
The idea that the Trump White House invited Haberman to break the news is noteworthy. She had been one of the many journalists who scoffed at the idea that then-reality show star Donald Trump could win the Republican nomination, let alone the presidency.
During a July 2015 interview with Clinton Foundation-donor and ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, Haberman literally laughed at warnings from Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison that Trump could be the Republican nominee.
Haberman, for her part, has broken numerous stories during the president’s first 100 days that would require her to be in contact with top officials inside of the Trump administration.
Revelations that the White House invited the two reporters into Spicer’s office at the time of the firing means that the administration wanted the Times to be the first to know. What is still debatable is the reasons why.
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